Continuous-Feed Inkjet Paper Options Continue to Ramp Up

Inkjet pages printed from 2008 and forecasted until 2018

Market-Intell believes that as much as 80 percent of all continuous-feed inkjet is printed on ordinary uncoated offset papers.

Coated inkjet prices have come down, as greater volumes and longer runs have helped bring down costs.

Continuous-feed production inkjet means high-speed digital printing. Digital printing. Short runs. Why do we need high-speed short runs?

As we evolve from digital printing being about short runs to digital printing being about versioning and personalization, higher speeds and greater efficiency mean lower cost. With mass customization, runs can indeed be long, but with each piece different. One example that demonstrates the value of continuous-feed inkjet is a case study with Hearst Magazines’ Popular Mechanics. The project featured 4.8 million localized pages as 16-page customized inserts that were bound in the November 2011 issue of Popular Mechanics, plus 300,000 personalized onserts. There were several critical requirements that could only be met with continuous-feed inkjet. The customized onserts and inserts required digital printing, and the more than five million total pages could not be handled cost-effectively with toner-based printing. Moreover, quality had to be appropriate for a high-quality, offset-printed magazine and, with an HP color inkjet web press and Appleton Coated’s Utopia Inkjet, the quality demand was met. The response rate was more than 4 percent, far exceeding the typical 1 to 2 percent response rate for direct mail.

Indeed, continuous-feed inkjet continues to be an exciting, evolving market. Interviews with various paper mills suggest that growth is strong, with several mills reporting growth rates of around 100 percent per year, and one mill reporting growth in excess of 200 percent. According to Don Burns, Kodak business development director-inkjet technology partnerships, “The technology is well past the tipping point.”

Data from IT Strategies confirms this: 146 billion pages were printed globally with continuous-feed inkjet in 2013 (Figure 1). Average annual growth since 2010 has been at 93 percent. Market-Intell estimates that this represents 350,000 tons of paper in North America in 2013.

Still a Small Market, Comparatively

Jack Miller is founder and Principal Consultant at Market-Intell LLC, offering Need to Know™ market intelligence in paper, print and packaging. Previously, he was senior consultant, North America, with Pira International.

Known as the Paper Guru, Jack is the former director of Market Intelligence with Domtar, where he also held positions as regional sales manager, territory sales manager and product manager. He has presented at On Demand, RISI’s Global Outlook, PRIMIR, SustainCom World and at various IntertechPira conferences. Jack has written for Printing Impressions, Canadian Printer, Paper 360, PaperTree Letter and Package Printing, along with publishing a monthly e-newsletter, MarketIntellibits.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from The College of the Holy Cross and has done graduate studies in Statistics and Finance.

Related Content
  • Paul Gardner

    Wonderful insight! As a newcomer to the inkjet web world, we at Hudson Printing are finding paper to be a HUGE challenge.

    Thanks Jack for the broader perspective, and for introducing us to a couple of companies we’ve not yet talked with.

  • Jim Kedenburg

    The selection of ink jet printable papers has, as already mentioned, has expanded greatly over the last ten years. As a major supplier of ink jet receptive coatings (ijrcs) for water based ink jet inks (dye and pigment) we have seen more of our products being applied to papers for 4 color ink jet printing with moderate to heavy ink coverage. The economics of this product segment continue to be challenging because there still are no acceptable replacements for silca and alumina pigments used in ijrcs for premium ink jet printed materials. Modified clays and carbonates can take you just so far in replacing silca in matte coatings. Plastic pigment and swellable polymer coating combinations lack the ink absorption and print properties obtained from alumina in gloss coatings. Now standard surface sizing technologies for ink jet papers do work quite well for the less demanding segment of the ink jet paper market and can be cost effective for the right end use applications.